Mandatory sentences are supposed to satisfy three aims of criminal punishment: retribution, incapacitation, and deterrence (Samaha, 2006). It is assuring that serious law violations will be punished and criminals won’t be able to harm public, while they are in prison. Nevertheless, mandatory sentence does have its pros and cons, which should be analyzed.
To start with, it is necessary to define mandatory sentencing. According to Larry Siegel (2010), mandatory sentencing is a statutory requirement that a certain penalty shall be set and carried out in all cases on conviction for a specified offense or series of offenses. In fact, people who commit crimes must be punished by the state. Although mandatory sentencing may vary by state, it is imposed in each one of them. Therefore, mandatory sentence are prescribed in order to control different kinds of deviant behavior.
In addition, mandatory sentence generally limits the judge’s discretionary power to impose any disposition but the authorized by the legislature (Siegel, 2010). Therefore, it makes the whole system fair and does not allow any personal opinion influence the judge’s decision. Nevertheless, there are certain disadvantages to this type of sentence as well. For instance, Department of Justice evaluation concluded that “the threat embodied in the words of the law proved to have teeth for relatively few offenders, because mandatory sentencing laws directly affect only an end product of a long criminal justice process – the convicted behavior” (Samaha, 2006). Thus, in hope to escape criminals are still able and even eager to violate the law in order to achieve their goal.
In fact, there are different opinions about mandatory sentence. However, there are some aspects of this punishment, which are rarely discussed. As a matter of fact, the effectiveness of sentence depends on the conditions it is implemented. Thus, it does not solve serious problems, such as racism. According to Samaha, Whites are less likely than Blacks and Hispanics to be indicated or convicted at the mandatory minimum (Samaha). That is why it is important to be careful, while imposing mandatory sentence.
All in all, mandatory sentence has more disadvantages than advantages. Although this system was designed to assure that serious law violations will be punished, it has some negative sides. For instance, it can raise different discussions about discrimination. Therefore, the effectiveness of mandatory sentence always depends on conditions it is implemented in.
Siegel L., 2010, Introduction to Criminal Justice, New York: Cengage Learning
Samaha J., 2006, Criminal Justice, Belmont: Thomson, …
Posted by: Andrea Konkol